State Supreme Court judges wasted little time in ordering the first review of a Missouri case in light of a US Supreme Court decision that juries, not judges, should decide whether someone is sentenced to death. The State Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a circuit court to review the case of Rufus James Ervin, convicted of killing Leland White in 1994 by smashing his head several times with a brick. After convicting Ervin, the jury deadlocked on sentencing and the trial judge sentenced Ervin to death. The State Supreme Court ruling deals with several issues raised by Ervin, rejecting all but one: that Ervin’s lawyer failed during the sentencing phase to investigate allegations that Ervin had threatened a cellmate while in prison. It orders the circuit court to consider that issue as well as how the US Supreme Court ruling on judge-imposed death sentences applies in the Ervin case.
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